A man who kept a pensioner’s body in a freezer for nearly two years has been jailed.
Damion Johnson, 53, had known 71-year-old John Wainwright for 27 years – and moved in with him into a flat in Birmingham in 2015 as his registered carer.
The pair were described by a friend as having a “strong friendship” and Johnson described Mr Wainwright as a father figure.
Derby Crown Court heard when Mr Wainwright died in September 2018, Johnson was “overcome by grief”.
On 25 September 2018, he ordered a chest freezer measuring around two feet by three feet, costing £462.
Mr Wainwright’s body was discovered almost two years later in August 2020 in the freezer on the premises of a skip company.
Johnson told relatives and friends that Mr Wainwright had died and that the funeral had already taken place, but did not inform the emergency services or obtain a death certificate.
At one stage, a friend of Mr Wainwright stayed at the flat while the pensioner’s body was stored in the freezer in the same room.
Prosecutor Darron Whitehead said: “The defendant says he was not thinking rationally and was not ready to let go of Mr Wainwright. As time passed, he had been unable to inform the authorities.”
In December 2019, the defendant was arrested for unrelated matters, and while police did not search the property, they barred Johnson from returning.
The flat was boarded up on 6 December with the freezer unplugged inside.
Several people later attended the flat to carry out safety checks and noted a strong smell which they described as “horrendous” and “unbearable”.
On 21 August 2020, a removal team took the freezer away and mistook the odour for rotting food – before Mr Wainwright’s body was found by staff at Budget Skips Services Ltd in Exhall, Warwickshire.
A post-mortem examination five days later noted signs of blunt force trauma, but Mr Whitehead said: “It was not possible to confirm or exclude natural disease as a cause or contributor to death.”
The prosecutor said from September 2018 to May 2020, Johnson also used Mr Wainwright’s bank card to buy goods and withdraw cash worth £17,000 and made 11 transfers to his bank account worth an additional £2,475.
The 53-year-old was sentenced to two years in prison on Tuesday after previously pleading guilty to preventing the lawful and decent burial of the body of Mr Wainwright, as well as three counts of fraud.
He was given concurrent six-month sentences for each of the latter charges.
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Raglan Ashton, mitigating, said Johnson had previously worked as a carer and a healthcare assistant at the Royal Derby Hospital and had an “informal agreement” with Mr Wainwright that whoever died first would still be able to access the funds which were in a joint account.
He said: “Perhaps one can understand that if one sees it against that background, perhaps it was not a callous act but an act, clearly inappropriate, of someone who was finding it very hard to come to terms with the death of Mr Wainwright.”
Jailing Johnson, of Sun Street, Derby, Judge Shaun Smith KC said preventing a burial was an “unusual offence” but that he was “not suggesting at all” that the defendant had any involvement in Mr Wainwright’s death.
He said: “Had you accepted his death and gone about it in a normal way, he would have received a good and decent burial.
“That was not what you did. You bought a chest freezer, a deliberate act on your part. You knew what you were going to do.
“Everything you did facilitated the hiding of that body. Nothing you did contributed to it being found.
“This is an offence which is so serious that the only appropriate punishment can be achieved by immediate custody.”